Tag Archives: Mars

The ‘burgh!

With the “Stillers” in the Super Bowl, I am being deluged with emails full of Pittsburgh nostalgia and trivia.

While I claim Pittsburgh as my home town, and cheer for the Steelers, I actually only lived there full-time for four years, and that ended 40 years ago. My parents were deep-rooted Pittsburghers. (I’d call them “yinzers”, except my father would never forgive me and my mother would come back from the grave and haunt me.) However, my life from earliest memory until high school was spent in Wheeling, W.Va.  — about an hour’s drive down the road. We moved to the South Hills the summer before my 10th grade. I left Pittsburgh for the University of Florida after my freshman year in college and never moved back except for two college-summers and visits.

A beautiful photo of "The Point" by Jennifer Yang.

All the same, I can still relate to many of these “You know you are from Pittsburgh if…” statements that my sister sent me.

Yunz is from the Picksburgh area or maybe you grew up there if:

1. You didn’t have a spring break in high school.

2. You walk carefully when it is “slippy” outside.

3. You often go down to the “crick.” (Lots of “cricks” in West Virginia too.)

4. You’ve told your children to “red up” their rooms. (I actually caught myself using this term the other day.)

5. You can remember telling your little brother/sister to stop being so “nebby.”

6. You’ve gotten hurt by falling into a “jaggerbush.”

7. Your mother or grandmother has been seen wearing a “babushka” on her head. (I don’t think so. Wrong ethnic group.)

8. You’ve “worshed” the clothes. (Never. My mother would have killed me.)

9. I ask you to hand me one of those “Gum-Bands” an’ you actually know what I’m talking about.

10. You know you can’t drive too fast on the back roads, because of the deer.

11. You know Beaver Valley, Turtle Crick, Mars, Slippery Rock, Greentree and New Castle are names of towns. And you’ve been to most, if not all, of them.

12. A girl walks up to three of her girl friends and says, “HEY,YENZ GUYS!”

13. You hear “you guyses” and don’t think twice. Example: “you guyses hause is nice.”

14. You know the three rivers by name and under stand that “The Point” isn’t just on a writing instrument.

15. Someone refers to “The Mon” or “The Yough” and you know exactly what they’re talking about.

16. You remember the blizzard of 1993 (or 1976, or 1950, or 1939, or…) and remember not being able to go outside because the snow was over your head and you would have suffocated.

17. Someone starts the chant, “Here we go Still-ers!” and you join in — in the proper cadence, waving the appropriately colored towel.

18. Bob Prince and “There’s a bug loose on the rug.” hold special meaning for you. (And you remember exactly where you were when Bill Mazeroski hit the walk-off homer to win the 1960 World Series.)

19. You’ve either eaten a Farkleberry Tart or know someone who has. (???)

20. You drink pop, eat hoagies, love perogies and one of your favorite sandwiches actually has coleslaw and French fries ON it. (I remember using the term “pop” when I went to Florida and no one knew what I was talking about. They called it “Coke or something.”)

21. You know what a “still mill” is.

22. You expect temps in the winter to be record-breaking cold and temps in the summer to be record-breaking hot.

23. You know what Eat ‘N Park is and frequently ate breakfast there at 2:00 AM after the bar closed and made fun of people.

24. You order “dippy eggs” in a restaurant and get exactly what you wanted.

25. You spent your summers, or a school picnic at Luna Park, Kennywood, Westview, Sand Castle or Idlewild.

26. You’ve been to the Braun’s Bread Plant or Story Book Forest for a school field trip. We went to the Heinz plant and the Isaly’s plant for Cub Scouts.

27. “Chipped ham” was always in your refrigerator when you was growin’ up. (Didn’t everyone have it?)

28. You refuse to buy any condiments besides Heinz unless a Pittsburgh athlete’s picture is on the side of the container.

29. When you call the dog or the kids you shout, “Kum-mere” and they come. (I’m afraid I’m guilty of this one.)

30. Franco, Roberto, and Mario don’t need last names and you can recite their exploits by heart.

31. Food at a wedding reception consists of rigatoni, stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut and polska kielbasa.

Say “no” to the moon and Mars!

I was watching the news last night and I saw that President Obama took advantage of the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing to meet with the three Apollo 11 astronauts. They encouraged the President to endorse a program to send men to Mars. There are already preliminary plans to return to the moon by 2020, and now these guys, as well as others, want to keep going on to Mars. My reaction – “Are you out of your mind?”

Please understand, I grew up in the 1960’s and was fascinated by the space program. I remember sitting in class watching Alan Shepherd’s first launch on a small black and white TV. I followed the Mercury and Gemini programs religiously. When I was bored in school I would doodle pictures of astronauts on space walks in the margins of my notebooks.

Apollo 8 Dec 24, 1968

Apollo 8 Dec 24, 1968

I remember being moved at the Apollo 8 astronauts’ Christmas Eve 1968 telecast from lunar orbit where they read the Book of Genesis as the camera showed the Earth rising over the lunar horizon.

Apollo 11 Moonwalk

Apollo 11 Moonwalk

And I remember sitting with my family on the afternoon of Saturday, June 20, 1969, when we first heard Neil Armstrong’s dry, understated transmission, “Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.”

I think space exploration is great, but it is a luxury, not a necessity. And it is simply a luxury we cannot afford. Space exploration costs enormous sums of money — tax money. It is money we don’t have. Didn’t we just borrow something like a trillion dollars from lenders like China and Saudi Arabia to bail out the Wall Street idiots who tried to send us into the next Great Depression? We have plenty of problems right here on Earth that will account for all our affordable and non-affordable tax dollars. These are issues that actually affect the lives of real human beings – health care, hunger, education, crumbling infrastructure, defense, and so on. Non-commercial space exploration has no tangible benefits except to those scientists, technicians and companies actually working on the projects.  It’s fun; it’s exciting; it’s inspiring;  but it is not necessary when we are borrowing to the hilt from other countries just to take care of the urgent needs.

I am not including commercial projects that pay their own way or defense projects that have their own justification in this. If it is necessary for defense or it is commercially funded, then go for it.

Compare it to a family budget. Expenses like defense and education are the national equivalent of buying the groceries and paying the rent. Space travel is like taking a vacation – fun, inspiring and exciting, but not necessary. It makes no sense for a family that is borrowing from their credit cards to pay for food and utilities to plan a European vacation. Likewise, it makes no sense for a nation that is up to its ears in debt and sinking deeper to spend massive amounts of money on space travel.

This may sound weird from someone who works in a scientific research laboratory. The issue is different. I’m not suggesting we shut down scientific research. That must continue. We simply do not know enough about any of the sciences to solve the current and future problems we do and will face. For better or worse, scientific research in this country is funded primarily by tax dollars. No matter how basic, or seemingly bizarre to the non scientist, most of that research will eventually have some affect on our world or the people in it – not so for extravagant space ventures.

We shouldn’t be planning an expensive European vacation until we can afford to pay for the utilities and groceries.